Can phenomenology determine the content of thought?
According to a number of popular intentionalist theories in philosophy of mind, phenomenology is essentially and intrinsically intentional: phenomenal properties are identical to intentional properties of a certain type, or at least, the phenomenal character of an experience necessarily fixes a type of intentional content. These views are attractive, but it is questionable whether the reasons for accepting them generalize from sensory-perceptual experience to other kinds of experience: for example, agentive, moral, aesthetic, or cognitive experience. Meanwhile, a number of philosophers have argued for the existence of a proprietary phenomenology of thought, so-called cognitive phenomenology (CP). There are different ways of understanding the relevant sense of “proprietary,” but on one natural interpretation, phenomenology is proprietary to thought just in case enjoying an experience with that phenomenal character is inseparable from thinking an occurrent, conscious thought. While one may have instances of thought without CP experience, one will never find CP independent of thought. So the former justifiably can be said to “belong to” the latter. The purpose of this paper is to argue that these intentionalist and cognitive phenomenology views make surprisingly uncomfortable bedfellows. I contend that the combination of the two views is incompatible with our best theories of how our concepts are structured. So cognitive phenomenology cannot determine the contents of our thoughts.
KeywordsCognitive phenomenology Concepts Phenomenal intentionality Intentionalism
I am grateful to Tim Bayne, Bill Child, Martin Davies, Michelle Montague, David Papineau, Oliver Rashbrook-Cooper, Josh Shepherd, Charles Siewert, and an anonymous referee for valuable discussion and feedback on material in this paper.
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